We are all familiar with the traditional neon signs that have adorned businesses for years. This bent glass tube filled with neon glass has been a mainstay in the sign industry for decades. Neon is beautifully hand crafted by skilled artisans to create a unique visual statement and still has a place in retro-style signage for many installations – bars, movie theaters, diners, etc. What is not so commonly known is that much of what used to be lit by neon is now being lit by LEDs. Yes, those same little diodes used in many electronic devices are more affordable and provide a great deal of flexibility at lower usage and maintenance costs than traditional neon.
LEDs are low voltage so they draw less current and consequently use less energy. Most manufacturers warranty their LEDs for 100,000 hours or more which means fewer service calls for repairs. With their long life and low energy consumption, LEDs are the preferred choice for energy conscious and maintenance minded builders. LED technology has made huge strides in color rendering and clarity. Large LED screens boast clusters of LEDs that can produce full color – even white – where once we were limited to just red. They provide even brightness for use in front and back lit channel letters with the added bonus that a single LED outage will not take out an entire run so you don’t end up with dark letters in your sign when one goes out.
Purchase costs have come down significantly since their first introduction to the sign industry. With increased production and greater demand for low energy solutions, LEDs are fast becoming the workhorse of the sign industry. There will no doubt still be a place for the curly red “open” sign and collectors will still scramble for vintage “coca-cola” and other brands immortalized in neon, but for most of us, we will be seeing more and more LEDs incorporated into signs and everyday lighting.